Europe’s courts have been in the process of wrestling with some practices of U.S. technology companies as worries over user privacy and security persist. Edward Snowden’s revelations last year regarding the data collection tactics of the U.S. government have made the jobs of U.S. tech companies that much more difficult when it comes to convincing users of their privacy everywhere, but the European Commission has responded more aggressively than some other entities. Most recently, Google experienced an important case in which the Court of Justice of the European Union determined that the search engine must give users the option of requesting certain information about them be removed from Google’s search index. Facebook is now encountering privacy problems of its own in Europe — something the social network is not unfamiliar with. But its case has graduated from a local problem in Ireland to the focus of the E.U. Court of Justice.
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The case centers on whether or not data-protection regulators can probe Facebook for its alleged handing-over of user details to the U.S. government. Privacy advocates say that because Facebook has a headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, its privacy practices should be subject to the E.U.’s more stringent data collection laws. A campaign titled Europe v Facebook — decrying the way Facebook processes its user information — made its way to the High Court in Dublin where Irish High Court Judge Gerard Hogan has decided that the case should go to the E.U.’s top court.
These central issues of privacy protection and data collection in Europe are clearly results of Snowden’s published leaks regarding the NSA’s surveillance on just about every internet user in existence. Judge Hogan’s statements on the decision to send Facebook’s case to the E.U. top court explicitly note that Snowden’s leaks set the stage for these heightened actions on privacy. And this will not be the last case for Facebook, Google, or any other U.S.-based technology company that plays a big role in communications and social tech.
Jean Camp, Director of the Security Informatics Program at Indiana University and Blouin Creative Leadership Summit delegate, highlights the difference in how Google and Facebook respond to the problems of privacy:
Google is the focus because Google has won the market, and with it all these problems. If Google did not exist, problems would remain. Indeed, in dealing with many thorny issues, Google has made difficult choices admirably. In contrast, Facebook seems unable to find an issue it cannot exacerbate.